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SUMO: 2017 Kyushu Basho (Day 11)

It’s Day 11 of the Kyushu Basho and yokozuna Hakuho maintains a two-win lead over his nearest competition. Hakuho is 10–0, while the number of 8–2 rikishi has dropped to two—M3 Hokutofuji and M12 Okinoumi.

The tournament isn’t quite at the point where Hakuho’s victory is assured, but we have arrived at the juncture where it will take some surprising turns of fate to make this a competitive race for the yusho [tournament championship]. The biggest active question is whether or not Hakuho is going to be able to pull off another zensho-yusho [perfect record championship]. If he does, that will mean that in 2017 he will have won three of the six honbasho [grand tournaments], and that his record in those winning efforts would be a collective 44 wins out of 45 matches.

Interestingly, despite being mostly absent for one of the 2017 tournaments, and completely absent from another one, Hakuho STILL is in the running to most wins for the year. He started the Kyushu Basho with 42 wins, trailing only four rikishi—Harumafuji (47), Mitakeumi (45), Takayasu (44), and Takakeisho (43)—and he has already passed them all to take the lead. The current totals (as of the end of Day 10) are: Hakuho (52), Takayasu & Mitakeumi (51), Takakeisho (50) . . . just another form of competition for you to keep track of as we wind toward the end of the 2017 sumo campaign.

But in the main competition, here are the best bouts from Day 11.

M12 Okinoumi (8–2) vs. M12 Kagayaki (6–4)—This should be a good match. Two big rikishi who struggled near the top of the banzuke [ranking sheet] but have regained their confidence here in the lower half of the Division. Okinoumi has gotten his kachi-koshi [majority of wins] and so will get promoted next basho, and is one of the second-place competitors hoping that Hakuho will somehow slip up . . . twice. Kagayaki, hasn’t gotten his kachi-koshi yet, but he seems well positioned to do so if he keeps performing well. Only one of them, though, will notch their next win today. (0:35)
M9 Endo (7–3) vs. M15 Nishikigi (5–5)—Endo seems to have found the remedy for whatever has been ailing him through most of 2017. He’s looked strong and quick, and made some clever moves in the ring. One more win and he’ll get his kachi-koshi and jump back into the upper section of the Maegashira ranks to begin 2018. On the other hand, Nishikigi is still struggling, even at the bottom of the banzuke. He must win three of his final five matches in order to avoid demotion into Juryo to start the new year. (2:45)
M4 Ichinojo (7–3) vs. ozeki Takayasu (7–3)—Two rikishi on the verge of kachi-koshi. However, Ichinojo will have to put in more of an effort than he did yesterday against Hakuho. Just being big isn’t near enough to win against the top-rankers. I haven’t mentioned it much, but the fact of the matter is that Takayasu is kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] this basho. The reason I haven’t been talking about it is that he’s been putting in a pretty solid ozeki performance and his kachi-koshi has never really seemed in doubt. Of course, he hasn’t been nearly as impressive as he was in the tournaments leading up to his promotion. If he wants to look like a REAL champion, then he’ll have to handle Ichinojo as matter-of-factly as Hakuho did yesterday. If he does, he’ll erase his kadoban status AND take the first real step on his quest for his final promotion. (11:00)
Ozeki Goeido (7–3) vs. M3 Hokutofuji (8–2)—Goeido’s loss to Mitakeumi yesterday showed once again is feet of clay. He’d better snap up his kachi-koshi quickly or he’ll be heading into his weekend showdowns with Takayasu and Hakuho still needing an eighth win. On the other hand, Hokutofuji has had a great tournament, already securing his majority of wins AND being the other rikishi most-directly trailing Hakuho. (11:40)
Sekiwake Yoshikaze (5–5) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (10–0)—Yoshikaze always brings his A-Game when he faces Hakuho, not that it generally does him much good. He’s only ever beaten the yokozuna once in sixteen tries, but he never looks intimidated, he comes out swinging and driving forward for all he’s worth. Still, the only time Hakuho wasn’t able to handle that handily was a day before he went kyujo due to leg injury. (13:25)

SUMO: 2017 Kyushu Basho (Day 10)

It’s Day 10 of the Kyushu Basho, and there’s a significant change on the leaderboard. Oh, not at the very top. Yokozuna Hakuho still is all alone there with a perfect 9–0 record. The change is that ALL of the rikishi who were immediately behind Hakuho lost yesterday, creating a two-win gap between him and his closest competition. There are currently six rikishi with 7–2 records—ozeki Goeido, M1 Tamawashi, M3 Hokutofuji, M4 Ichinojo, M5 Arawashi, and M12 Okinoumi—and their only hope of contending for the yusho [tournament championship] is for Hakuho to lose TWICE and for them to perform perfectly for the rest of the basho. That seems like a tall order for ANY of them. In fact, the only one that I think has any kind of realistic chance is Goeido IF he gets focused again (highly unlikely) and IF he can find a way to beat Hakuho when the fight on senshuraku [the final day] (even MORE unlikely).

I say that Goeido and Hakuho will fiight on Day 15 because as of today yokozuna Kisenosato is kyujo [absent due to injury], so Goeido is now that highest ranking challenger in the competition, which means he will get the honor of fighting against Hakuho in the final match of the final day.

I’m glad that Kisenosato has withdrawn. It’s been clear for days that he’s nursing some kind of injury (I think that it’s a left thigh strain) that makes it impossible for him to do anything but fight defensively. He needs to rest, possibly skipping another whole tournament, until his injuries heal. Otherwise, this first Japanest-born yokozuna since 2004 will find his career may not last two full calendar years. [EDIT: Reports say Kisenosato’s injury is to a ligament in his knee.]

Onosho looked good in his win yesterday. Komusubi is a very difficult rank because their schedules are usually front-loaded, with Week 1 being matches against all of the opponents ranked above them—yokozuna, ozeki, and sekiwake. It’s only in Week 2 that they begin facing lower-ranked rikishi. Onosho got two wins in Week 1 and another yesterday. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the way he fought (aside from being understandably anxious and rushing himself a bit), and if he keeps his spirits high there’s no reason he can’t have a great record in Week 2, saving his kachi-koshi [majority of wins].

Goeido, on the other hand, notched a seventh win yesterday against sekiwake Yoshikaze, but it was more by luck than skill. The whole bout was a mess for BOTH rikishi, and Goeido was a hair’s breadth away from losing when he realized that his opponent was in just as terrible a situation as he was. Indeed, it seemed as though Goeido had conceded the loss (at least in his own mind), which isn’t the kind of thing that a rikishi contending for a yusho should EVER do.

All of the rikishi have six matches remaining in the tournament. How they approach those matches will have a great deal to do with what they get out of them.

Now here’s a look at today’s top matches.

M7 Daishomaru (3–6) vs. M12 Okinoumi (7–2)—Okinoumi is one of the six rikishi tied for second place. He slipped up yesterday, lookingalmost disinterested during his quck loss to M14 Kotoyuki. If he can get the fire back in his belly, there’s no reason he shouldn’t go right back to his winning ways. (3:40)
M6 Chiyoshoma (4–5) vs. M9 Daiesho (4–5)—Two mid-level rikishi, both scrambling to get their kachi-koshi [majority of wins], and both currently sitting at 4–5 records. Getting this fifth win is more of a psychological edge than a real one.  (5:10)
M9 Endo (6–3) vs. M5 Arawashi (7–2)—Arawashi is another second-place rikishi, and today he faces off against fan favorite Endo. Certainly, this is one of the matches that will garner the most hooting and hollering from the crowd, and that often spurs the rikishi on to greater performances. (7:30)
M2 Chiyotairyu (4–5) vs. M3 Hokutofuji (7–2)—These two rikishi are very similar physically, and fight with very stimilar stlyes of sumo. That often makes for interesting, hard-fought matches. (8:00)
M1 Tamawashi (7–2) vs. komusubi Onosho (3–6)—Onosho is trying to turn his fortunes around after a pretty unlucky Week 1, and so far he’s doing a very good job. Today he faces one of the six second-place rikishi in Tamawashi, another pairing that will likely turn into a long-term rivalry over the coming years. (10:05)
Ozeki Goeido (7–2) vs. sekiwake Mitakeumi (5–4)—Goeido is on the verge of slipping into one of his self-imposed doldrums, and Mitakeumi is still suffering from the effects of his badly sprained toe. The question is, which one will rise above his challenges and grab victory today? (5–4)
M4 Ichinojo (7–2) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (9–0)—Hakuho is unbeaten and looking to remain that way. Ichinojo is big and lazy, and likewise looking to remain that way. Okay, that’s harsh even for me. But so far this tournament, Ichinojo’s “winning strategy” has been to “loom & lean” over and on his opponents until they make a mistake trying to get out from under his bulk. I don’t see that strategy working against Hakuho, so unless Ichinojo has some other trick up his sleeve, I don’t even consider the outcome of this match in question. (14:40)

SUMO: 2017 Kyushu Basho (Day 9)

It’s Day 9 of the Kyushu Basho, the start of Week 2, and yokozuna Hakuho sits alone atop the leaderboard with a perfect 8–0 record. That makes him the first to reach kachi-koshi [majority of wins] and in fine form for what lies ahead. Directly behind him with 7–1 records are a trio of rank-and-file rikishi—M4 Ichinojo, M5 Arawashi, and M12 Okinoumi.

Some interesting tidbits have leaked from the investigation into the Harumafujo/Takanoiwa incident. Apparently, the fracas was a continuation of some argument that had begun several days earlier on the jungyo [exhibition tour], where Takanoiwa was giving lip to Hakuho about needing to retire saying that “it’s our generation’s turn now.” At the bar on the evening of the incident, Takanoiwa apparently continued to show disrespect to Hakuho, and THAT’S what sent Harumafuji into a rage.

This is intriguing because it sheds some light on the fact that prior to the start of the tournament, Hakuho publicly said that he was aiming for a zensho-yusho [perfect record championship] and anything else would be a disappointment. Making that kind of brash statement is not something Hakuho or any of the yokozuna generally do—humility being one of the marks of a great champion, and something the Kyokai [Sumo Association] is pretty strict about. But in this case, it strikes me that this might be Hakuho’s way of thumbing his nose at the idea that his time has past. Basically saying to Takanoiwa and any other disgruntled mid-career rikishi, “If you want my spot, come and take it. All you have to do is beat ME!” (A statement that seems even stronger given that in the last few days Hakuho has faced several of the top young contenders and beaten them all quite handily.)

Another tidbit involves Takanohana Oyakata, the stablemaster for Taknoiwa’s heya AND the sumo elder in charge of the jungyo. Apparently, the Kyokai is going to reprimand him for not being mindful enough about the health of rikishi on the tour (he having taken a week to send Takanoiwa to the hospital for treatment, and even longer to report the incident to the committee at large). Rumor is that Takanohana will be removed from his jungyo responsibilities and placed on some other, less prestigious assignment.

Meanwhile, back in the tournament itself, here are today’s top matches.

J9 Terutsuyoshi (2–6) vs. J14 Takagenji (5–3)—A match from the middle of the Juryo division that is notable because of the rare kimarite [winning tchnique] that is employed. (0:10)
M12 Okinoumi (7–1) vs. M14 Kotoyuki (3–5)—Okinoumi is looking good this basho, and Kotoyuki is looking like he wants a quick trip back down to Juryo. But there’s something about encroaching make-koshi [majority of losses] that gives a rikishi incentive to find a way to win. Kotoyuki better find that starting today. And if he does, Okinoumi needs to add determination to his list of newly rediscovered skills. (1:55)
M10 Kaisei (5–3) vs. M7 Shodai (3–5)—This match doesn’t have anything to do with the yusho hunt, but it does have some hard-fought sumo. (5:45)
M7 Daishomaru (2–6) vs. M4 Ichinojo (7–1)—I pick on Ichinojo a lot because he never brings anything other than his size into the ring. But yesterday he beat yokozuna Kisenosato, so maybe he is getting ready to put in some effort and fight for his chance at the yusho. Maybe. (7:35)
M5 Arawashi (7–1) vs. M2 Tochiozan (0–8)—Tochiozan is still winless. In fact, he got is make-koshi as fast as it can be gotten. One of two things is likely to happen now, either he’ll curl up inside himself and be lucky to pull out even a single victory this tournament, or he’ll suddenly get a fire in his belly and fight to salvage whatever he can to minimize the distance he’ll drop down the banzuke [ranking sheet]. Arawashi, on the other hand, is on a roll. Other than his Day 4 loss to Ichinojo, he’s been perfect. For his sake, I hope he stays focused today, rather than counting this win as a foregone conclusion. (8:55)
M1 Takakeisho (6–2) vs. komusubi Onosho (2–6)—I feel bad for Onosho. After getting 10–5 records in his first three tournaments in Makuuchi, it’s now clear that he will do no better than nine wins in this one . . . and he’s going to have to fight hard to get that. Fortunately for him, the toughest part of his schedule is now behind him. If his spirit remains strong, and he fights the way he did in Week 1, he’’s likely to steamroll most of his Week 2 opponents. Of course, today he faces a legitimate challenger in Takakeisho. That makes this a good measure of the komusubi’s mettle. (11:00)
M4 Chiyonokuni (1–7) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (8–0)—Hakuho seems like a man on a mission this basho. This is the stretch in any tournament, though, where he has to guard against overconfidence and just go out and get it done. Of course, with thirty-nine yusho already won, he’s very much aware of that. (15:20)
Yokozuna Kisenosato (4–4) vs. M5 Takarafuji (3–5)—I’m honestly surprised that Kisenosato is still fighting. After his loss to Ichinojo yesterday, and giving up his third kinboshi [gold star award for a Maegashira rikishi beating a yokozuna], I figured he’d go kyujo [absent due to injury] if only to save some face. Clearly, though, he still has something that he’s fighting for.But if he loses again, he pretty much HAS TO go kyujo or it will start the Kyokai debating about whether or not he’s got what it takes to be a long-term yokozuna. (16:05)


SUMO: 2017 Kyushu Basho Nakabi [Middle Day] (Day 8)

It’s nakabi [the middle day] of the Kyushu Basho and yokozuna Hakuho remains undefeated and alone atop the leaderboard. Five rikishi are one loss behind him, but they are ALL rank-and-file Maegashira rikishi—M3 Hokutofuji, M4 Ichinojo, M5 Arawashi, M12 Okinoumi, and M13 Aminishiki. 

Hakuho notched an important win yesterday, not only for this tournament but for making a statement that he’s not ready to step aside for the next generation yet. He squared off against the 21-year-old Onosho, who currently is the face of the new wave of up-and-comers, this despite his poor showing this basho (such is to be expected the first time a rikishi is ranked in sanyaku . . . it’s a whole different world at the top of the banzuke [ranking sheet]. It was the first time these two fought, and while Hakuho didn’t put on the same dominant performance he did during all of Week 1, he neither had any real trouble outmaneuvering the youngster and grabbing his seventh win.

Yokozuna Kisenosato, on the other hand, continued to look like his left leg was still bothering him in a hard-fought loss to M3 hokutofuji (the third kinboshi [gold star award for a Maegashira rikishi beating a yokozuna] he’s given up this basho. I think it will only be another day or two until Kisenosato admits that he’s hurt and goes kyujo [absent due to injury] just to save face.

Speaking of kyujo, we have M11 Aoiyama returning from a four-day injury absence. He’s trying to avoid having a record so bad that he gets demoted all the way out of the Makuuchi Division. Since he’ll be picking up with a 1–2–4 record, it seems unlikely that he’ll manage to salvage kachi-koshi. But if he can get five or more wins, he’ll probably be able to avoid having to sink into Juryo to start 2018.

Ozeki Goeido, who looked very strong in the early going, has now lost two matches in a row and fallen well off the pace of the yusho hunt. At the beginning of the tournament, I predicted that he’d have a weak tournament and likely would be make-koshi in Kyushu, and it seemed like he was going to make me eat those words. If he doesn’t pull out of this losing streak quickly, though, he may make me look like a stellar prognosticator.

Meanwhile, ozeki Takayasu is kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] this tournament. And though he still seems less than 100% healthy, a win today will put him just two away from securing his kachi-koshi and his rank.

Looking further down the banzuke, it’s been a lot of fun to see some fan favorite rikishi shaking off their doldrums and looking competitive again. Rikishi like M9 Endo, M10 Ikioi, and M12 Okinoumi have been putting in consistently strong performances. But the most fun has come from watching thirty-nine-year-old M13 Aminishiki return to the Makuuchi Division after a year in Juryo, and not only do well, but keep himself in the yusho hunt through the middle weekend. 

The top matches for Sunday include:

M12 Okinoumi (6–1) vs. M14 Daiamami (2–5)—Okinoumi seems like he’s finally shaken off whatever has been dragging him down all year long. He’l looking strong and confident, and he’s not rushing his sumo. This is his first time facing Daiamami, who is a Makuuchi Division rookie, so anything could happen. (0:50)
M9 Endo (4–3) vs. M13 Aminishiki (6–1)
—Two fan favorites, a very typical nakabi pairing. Endo is looking better than he has in a few tournaments, but Aminishiki is really on a hot streak (if you don’t count his first loss yesterday). They’re both skill-based rikishi, so it should be fun seeing whose sumo is sharper today. (3:25)
M8 Chiyomaru (3–4) vs. M5 Arawashi (6–1)—Arawashi has quietly been having a very good tournament, his one loss coming on Day 4 against Ichinojo (who also is 6–1 at this point). Chiyomaru, on the other hand has been hot and cold. I give the edge to Arawashi, even if Chiyo is hot. (5:35)
Sekiwake Mitakeumi (5–2) vs. M1 Takakeisho (5–2)
—Two future stars early in what should be a rivalry to watch develop over the coming years. They’re 1–1 so far head-to-head. With Mitakeumi’s injured toe, I think that Takakeisho has an edge today . . . but over the course of years I think Mitakeumi is going to get the better of this rivalry. (9:40)
Yokozuna Kisenosato (4–3) vs. M4 Ichinojo (6–1)—Kisenosato must either start winning or go kyujo [absent due to injury]. It’s clear that something’s wrong with his left leg, and if it’s so bad that he can’t beat Ichinojo, he needs to sit down and rest. Ichinojo has amassed a 6–1 record by his usual tactic of looming over opponents until they make a mistake. When facing a yokozuna, he really should have no chance to win . . . but Kisenosato’s condition makes all the difference. (12:40)
M3 Hokutofuni (6–1) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (7–0)—Today Hakuho faces another star of the future. The yokozuna made quick work of Onosho yesterday, now it’s Hokutofuji’s turn to see what he can do against the “old man.” (13:55)

SUMO: 2017 Kyushu Basho (Day 7)

It’s Day 7 of the Kyushu Basho and we’re down to just a single combatant atop the leaderboard with an undefeated record—yokozuna Hakuho! Unfortunately, I’m quite pressed for time today, so I can’t give a thorough assessment of yesterday’s action or what dramatic situations it creates. But I can point out the best of today’s matches and present the video for your enjoyment.

M13 Takekaze (2–4) vs. M13 Aminishiki (5–1)—When the two oldest rikishi in the top division go head-to-head, you get a total of 77 years of sumo experience on the dohyo at once. That’s bound to produce some interesting results. (0:36)
M12 Okinoumi (5–1) vs. M10 Ikioi (3–3)—Two popular rikishi, even though their fortunes haven’t been so great most of this year. Okinoumi is still on the leaderboard, and Ikioi is looking more confident than he has in several tournaments.  (2:40)
Ozeki Goiedo (5–1) vs. M3 Shohozan (3–3)—Goeido had his first slip-up yesterday. The big question is whether he can get back on course today and stay in the hunt for the yusho [tournament championship], or if he’s going to have another one of his patented uncalled for losing streaks. His opponent today is Shohozan—another tough, slap-and-thrust, streetfighting rikishi. When these two square off, it’s always a wild, brutal affair. (10:25)
Komusubi Onosho (1–5) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (6–0)—This is the first meeting between Hakuho and the young phenom Onosho. I expect Onosho to slow himself down and focus, because surely he can’t be overconfident in his chances against the greatest yokozuna of the era (probably of all time). Of course, I also expect that there’s nothing that the youngster can show that Hakuho doesn’t have an answer for. (11:35)
Yokozuna Kisenosato (4–2) vs. M3 Hokutofuji (5–1)—Kisenosato certainly seems to be on his way to a kachi-koshi [majority of wins], but that’s not really good enough as a yokozuna. If you ask me, it seems like his left thigh is still injured and he’s fighting every match defensively. This is fine until he faces opponents who are strong enough to push around his 240kg body. Hokutofuji certainly has the strength. So this match will probably depend on whether or not Kisenosato can outmaneuver Hokutofuji at the ring’s edge.  (12:50)


SUMO: 2017 Kyushu Basho (Day 6)

It’s Day 6 and the leaderboard looks like this: Three rikishi are undefeated (yokozuna Hakuho, ozeki Goeido, and M13 Aminishiki) with seven rikishi one win off the pace (ozeki Takayasu, sekiwake Mitakeumi, M3 Hokutofuji, M4 Ichinojo, M5 Arawashi, M12 Okinoumi, and M15 Nishikigi). The first number is surprisingly small leading into middle weekend, and the second number is about right . . . perhaps a little large. 

Mostly, the numbers don’t matter as long as Hakuho continues to fight like his recent injuries never happened. In yesterday’s match he clearly was toying with his opponent—M2 Tochiozan. Of course, over the past two years, he’s regularly toyed with Tochiozan, employing several nekodamashi [cat tricks] maneuvers against him, regularly giving him a dame-oshi [extra shove] after the match is won, and looking surprisingly pleased with himself after it’s all said and done. (At one point I thought that Hakuho actually LIKED Tochiozan and was using these moments to pressure him into performing better and “living up to his potential,” but I’ve changed my mind . . . now I think that Hakuho basically dislikes Tochiozan for some reason, and he’s just trying to make him look bad.)

It’s not that Hakuho is completely unassailable. Chances are good that he’ll lose a match or two in the next ten days. But the chances are very SLIM that any of his opponents will ALSO perform that well. Hakuho’s great power isn’t that he’s undefeatable, it’s that he can be counted on to regain focus after a loss and keep his overall record on a path that approaches perfection. And he has one advantage that NO ONE else in the basho can match—he never has to fight against Hakuho. Everyone else must, and therefore must also do BETTER than he does in their OTHER matches in order to absorb that extra loss.

That having been said, Goeido has certainly shown us that he, too, can approach perfection (as his one tournament win was a zensho-yusho [perfect record championship]). But he’s also shown us that he is more often likely to let one loss shake his confidence and suddenly slip into a multi-day losing streak (as he did in September, after a 10–1 start to the tournament). If he can master his weaker tendencies, Goeido can present a serious challenge to Hakuho.

The other remaining undefeated rikishi, Aminishiki, is the kind of dark horse it’s difficult to handicap. He’s way down the banzuke [ranking sheet] at M13, but he’s had a long and storied career, having been ranked as high as sekiwake on six different occasions. He knows how to win, and for at least the first ten days he’ll only be facing the lowest ranked of opponents, giving him an easier path to challenging final weekend. Of course, he’s ranked that low because it’s been a long time since he performed at a sekiwake level, and he relies more on trickery than domination these days. And, oddly, because of his low rank he ALSO gains the advantage of not having to fight Hakuho (unless they end up tied and go into a final day playoff).

And through all this, the pressure remains high on the half-dozen-or-so rikishi who are one win off the pace. They, too, must approach perfection over the next five days in order to remain within striking distance when the leaders stumble. If the leaders all stumble. 

M13 Aminishiki (5–0) vs. M11 Asanoyama (1–4)—Aminishiki is just back from a year in Juryo and he’s showing that he hasn’t lost any of his cleverness. He’s winning his bouts not by overpowering his opponents, but by taking their initial charges and then turning their preferred attacks against them. They’ve all been more or less wins by “reversal.” I think we’re due for him to pull a big ol’ henka [jump to the side at the tachi-ai] in one of these matches soon. He’s always been renowned for using those cleverly and effectively. (2:00)
M9 Endo (3–2) vs. M12 Okinoumi (4–1)—Two popular rikishi who have had shaky performances for most of 2017, but both seem to have turned things around here in the last tournament of the year. If they’re both as on their game as they’ve seemed thus far, this should be a very exciting match. (3:15)
Sekiwake Mitakeumi (4–1) vs. komusubi Onosho (1–4)—Two rikishi who seem destined to be stars in the coming years. I think this is going to develop into one of the big rivalries of the coming decade. Mitakeumi is hampered at the moment with a badly stubbed toe (I’m guessing that it’s actually broken), while Onosho has been doing over-anxious sumo and leaving himself vulnerable to thust downs. We’ll see who performs better today. (10:40)
Ozeki Goeido (5–0) vs. M2 Chiyotairyu (1–4)—I was having an online discussion last night with a friend who roots hard for Goeido. Where I find him difficult to like because he so often fails to live up to his potential, my friend likes Goeido because when he pulls it all together he is among the best in the sport. Right now, Goeido seems to have everything under control . . . so my friend is enjoying his strong performance while I keep holding my breath waiting for him to slip up. (11:45)
Yokozuna Kisenosato (3–2) vs. M2 Tochiozan (0–5)—Kisenosato may have turned a corner in his confidence yesterday. He stayed calm, moved with certainty and conviction, and pulled a win out of a match where he was clearly in trouble. I think he’s probably still injured and can’t be as aggressive as he usually likes . . . but as long as he continues to find ways to win, it can only help his overall confidence as a yokozuna. (14:10)
M3 Shohozan (2–3) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (5–0)—Shohozan is a scrappy, street-fighter of a rikishi, and Hakuho seems not to like facing opponents like that. I don’t mean that he has trouble with them, but rather he goes out of his way to wrap those opponents up as quickly as possible to avoid the unpredictable thumping one gets in such matches. The longer Shohozan can stay out of of Hakuho’s grip, the better his chances of scoring an upset victory. (15:10)

SUMO: 2017 Kyushu Basho (Day 5)

It’s Day 5 of the Kyushu Basho and the first bit of news today is that we have another rikishi going kyujo [absent due to injury]. As of today, sekiwake Terunofuji has withdrawn from the Kyushu Basho. This was the tournament after he was demoted from the rank of ozeki, so if he could have reached ten wins he would have been reinstated to sumo’s second-highest rank. But his injuries are bad enough that he really never should have entered the tournament, as his 0–4 record attests. His knees are so bad that he can’t put up a solid defense, even against opponents he outweighs by dozens of pounds. By pulling out now, Terunofuji can go back to healing, and hopefully will not return until his body truly is ready to compete, even if that means skipping several of the 2018 tournaments and dropping precipitously down the banzuke. In 2015, when he was promoted to ozeki, he looked like a shoe-in for eventual promotion to yokozuna, and he’s young enough that he still could regain that ground . . . even if he has to start from “the beginning” again.

Looking at the winning side of the banzuke, we’re already down to only a quintet of undefeated rikishi. Those with perfect 4–0 records are yokozuna Hakuho, ozeki Goeido, ozeki Takayasu, M4 Ichinojo, and M13 Aminishiki. What’s more, only four rikishi are one win behind the pace with 3–1 records—Sekiwake Mitakeumi, M3 Hokutofuji, M5 Arawashi, M12 Okinoumi. The rest of the field is either even or already lagging with losing records. It’s pretty much the opposite of what happened in September, when a huge collection of rikishi stayed in close competition for the lead through the middle weekend and into Week 2.

Hakuho is clearly the strongest of the bunch, unsurprisingly. Certainly, there are a good number of rikishi in the mix who COULD beat him on a given day, but the chances of several of them doing so, particularly when he’s looking so strong, are pretty thin unless the spectre of injury rises again. That means that one or two rikishi will need to stay near perfect for the next ten days just to keep any kind of pressure on Hakuho at all.

Goeido managed to do that in September, even taking Hakuho into a final day playoff to decide the yusho [tournament championship]. And the truth is that so far Goeido has seemed pretty strong. But over the years the ozeki has EARNED a reputation for lacking focus over the course of a tournament, and for losing 3–4 matches that he really ought to win. If he can remain undefeated through the coming weekend, we’ll have to take him seriously, but in my heart I really EXPECT him to lose once or twice before then.

Takayasu still has the “new ozeki” scent around him. He is kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] this tournament, so his first and main challenge is to make sure he gets 8 wins and is kachi-koshi [majority of wins]. Right now that’s looking highly likely, but it must be the utmost goal on his mind . . . and only AFTER that will Takayuasu turn his attention to the yusho hunt. He’s undefeated so far, but he was on the verge of losing two of his matches and only turned things around because of the slipperiness of the dohyo. In his whole career he’s never gotten more than twelve wins in a tournament, and the way things are going it seems like it will take at least thirteen or fourteen to keep pace with Hakuho.

A surprising possibility is Aminishiki, who is only returned to the Makuuchi Division this basho after a year down in Juryo. A mark against him is that he’s the oldest rikishi currently in competition, but the fact of the matter is that he wins through wiles and skill rather than raw power, and at M13 he’s facing opponents who are more likely to succumb to his trickery. He might have the best chance of anyone to keep pace with Hakuho deep into Week 2.

The other currently undefeated rikishi is Ichinojo, but my disdain for him almost caused me to leave him off the list entirely. At M4 he is unlikely to remain undefeated much longer and, indeed, I still think there’s a better than even chance that he’ll wrap up the tournament with a make-koshi [majority of losses].

Really, though, we’re just now getting to the one-third mark on the basho schedule. There’s a whole lot of sumo yet to be done by EVERYONE, and just about anything could happen along the way.

M14 Daiamami (1–3) vs. M13 Aminishiki (4–0)—Aminishiki is the first of our leaders up on the dohyo. As I’ve said, he’s a wily veteran who seems to have an answer to everything EXCEPT when an opponent gets a good grip and just plain out-muscles him. Daiamami is a rookie in the Makuuchi Division, and just won his first match ever at this level the other day. He’s got strength and energy, but not a lot of experience. (1:20)
M7 Shodai (2–2) vs. M5 Arawashi (3–1)—Neither of these two is really in the mix for the yusho hunt . . . but both could get there if they get on hot streaks. Unfortunately, one of their streaks is going to go cold with a loss today. (4:55)
M6 Chiyoshoma (2–2) vs. M4 Ichinojo (4–0)—Ichinojo is undefeated and still facing opponents who are ranked in the the mid-Maegashira level. There’s no reason he shouldn’t get a fifth win today, except that his lackidaisical attitude toward his matches make him ALWAYS vulnerable to an upset. (7:00)
M4 Chiyonokuni (1–3) vs. M3 Hokutofuji (3–1)—So far this tournament Chiyonokuni has looked strong, but hasn’t been able to put his use that strength to finish off opponents that he’s out-fought. Hokutofuji, on the other hand, has bulled his way to a one-loss record. Overall, I like Chiyonokuni better, but in sports (especially one like sumo) the will to win often means more than just about any skill. (7:40)
M1 Tamawashi (2–2) vs. ozeki Takayasu (4–0)—Takayasu is looking pretty strong in his bouts so far, but he hasn’t generally looked like he has a plan. It seems like he’s relying on his body and the weight of his rank . . . and so far that’s worked for him. Tamawashi, on the other hand, is trying to win back a spot in the sanyaku ranks, making him a man with a mission. (10:45)
Ozeki Goeido (4–0) vs. komusubi Onosho (1–3)—Onosho is having the type of tournament that one expects from a first-time sanyaku rikishi. He’s showing an odd mixture of extreme confidence and nervous anxiety. He needs to calm down and stop rushing through his matches—that’s what I think is causing him to slip on the dohyo. On the other side, Goeido is still undefeated, but has been as lucky as he’s been skillful. He also needs to calm down and do steady, confident sumo. I’m not sure who’ll win this one. I definitely think that Onosho has what it takes to beat Goeido, I’m just not sure he knows WHICH of his moves are the right ones. (11:50)
M2 Tochiozan (0–4) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (4–0)—Over the last few years, Hakuho has made a habit of performing odd maneuvers when he faces Tochiozan. Here’s a tiny spoiler: he does it again in this match. Watch the WHOLE match . . . and watch with interest. (12:40)
Yokozuna Kisenosato (2–2) vs. M3 Shohozan (2–2)—Kisenosato has been a little shaky so far this basho, but there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly wrong with him physically. Some of the commentators are saying that he’s just got some nerves after being away from the dohyo for so long, and that could be it. But I also see him performing very defensive sumo, which is not his usual style. However, if he gets confidence back in his defensive maneuvering, maybe he’ll start performing more offensively. (13:55)

SUMO: 2017 Kyushu Basho (Day 4)

As Day 4 of the Kyushu Basho dawns, we have a few more details about the Harumafuji situation, though still there is more unknown than known.

The incident took place on October 26th at a social gathering of Mongolian rikishi after a jungyo [exhibition tour] stop in Tottori. There was a disagreement between Harumafuji and Takanoiwa—an unnamed source says that Takanoiwa told the yokozuna, “Your generation is done. It’s our turn now.”—and Harumafuji responded by hitting him over the head with a beer bottle, then punching him several dozen times. Takanoiwa was hospitalized from Nov. 5–9 and diagnosed with a concussion, a skull base fracture, and other minor injuries. The unnamed source says that Harumafuji then yelled at yokozuna Kakuryu and scuffled with a few other rikishi before the incident wound down.

Takanoiwa’s oyakata [stable manager], former yokozuna Takanohana, reported the incident to the Tottori police, and filed a complaint with the Nihon Sumo Kyokai [Japan Sumo Association].

Yesterday, Harumafuji and his coach Isegahama Oyakata went to the Kyokai expecting to meet with Takanohana Oyakata and offer an apology. However, Takanohana dropped off some paperwork (including police reports) and left the building before the other two arrived. Most sumo pundits interpret this as meaning that he has no interest in accepting the apology. 

For its part, the Kyokai has announced that they have put together a special commission to investigate the matter, and that neither the results of the commission nor any punishment for Harumafuji would be discussed until after the end of the Kyushu Basho.

Meanwhile, there’s still a full slate of sumo action. Yokozuna Hakuho, ozeki Goeido, and ozeki Takayasu continue to press forward undefeated, something only three non-sanyaku rikishi have managed to do, despite there only having been three matches thus far. We should have our first reasonable leaderboard come together in the next few days. 

Yokozuna Kisenosato beat komusubi Onosho . . . or, more accurately, Onosho slipped on the clay (for the second day in a row—if he’d just calm down a little and make sure he had his feet under him, he might still be undefeated). In any case, it was Kisenosato’s 901st win in the Makuuchi Division, tying him with former yokozuna Takanohana (who we were just talking about above) at number eight on the all-time list.

A little lower down the banzuke [ranking sheet], sekiwake Yoshikaze managed to notch his 500th career Makuuchi Division level win against ailing giant sekiwake Terunofuji. There seems to be almost no hope that Terunofuji will get the ten wins he needs to regain his ozeki rank. In fact, it’s seeming pretty unlikely that he’ll even manage to get kachi-koshi [majority of wins] and that he’ll tumble out of the sanyaku ranks entirely.

The third sekiwake, Mitakeumi, whose left toe makes his ever step obviously painful, managed to beat komusubi Kotoshogiku and better his overall record to 2–1. I’d like to see Mitakeumi get his kachi-koshi and then sit out the remainder of the tournament . . . I’m tired of seeing strong, young rikishi hobbled for months and years because they were too bullheaded to let their bodies heal completely.

Now let’s look at today’s top matches.

M14 Kotoyuki (1–2) vs. J2 Ryuden (1–2)—Kotoyuki is back up from Juryo, but based on his performance over the first few days, he won’t be here long. He STILL doesn’t seem to have learned any new tricks, which means that every time he meets an opponent who is strong enough to deflect his pushing/thrusting attacks, he has no secondary strategy to fall back on. Today he faces Ryuden, who is up from Juryo for the day, so Kotoyuki better take advantage of the lower-ranked opponent while he can. (0:10)
M10 Kaisei (2–1) vs. M12 Okinoumi (2–1)—Two popular rikishi who have had lackluster performances throughout 2017, but are trying to put in a good show in the final tournament of the year. In particularly, Okinoumi has shown more energy and enthusiasm in the past two days than he has in the past two basho combined. (2:50)
Komusubi Onosho (1–2) vs. sekiwake Yoshikaze (1–2)—Onosho has had a run of bad luck the past couple of days, losing two matches in a row because he slipped on the clay. Of course, it may just be that he’s a little overanxious and is leaning too far ahead during his charges, which would put him off balance and lead to slipping. Today he faced Yoshikaze, who so far has also had the misfortune of just being a little unlucky. In both of his losses, Yoshikaze was clearly dominating the match when his opponents made unexpected, quite possibly unplanned maneuvers that turned the tables and gave them the wins. Yoshikaze doesn’t have to make any significant changes to how he’s doing his sumo . . . he just needs to catch a few breaks. (10:20)
Yokozuna Kisenosato (2–1) vs. M1 Takakeisho (1–2)—Kisenosato may be 2–1, but he could very easily be 0–3. He hasn’t looked sharp in any of his bouts. With two other yokozuna out of the running, we’re kind of counting on him to provide some drama and put pressure on Hakuho. This is only the second time he’s ever faced Takakeisho, but a healthy Kisenosato should be able to handle him with little trouble. (14:30)

SUMO: 2017 Kyushu Basho (Day 3)

It’s Day 3 of the Kyushu Basho, and things are hardly going according to plan. Although yokozuna Hakuho has come back strong from his absence in the previous tournament, yokozuna Kisenosato (who also was kyujo [absent due to injury] in September) looks much less stable and is only 1–1 in his first two matches. What’s more, yokozuna Kakuryu is kyujo again (meaning that he’ll only have fully competed in ONE tournament in 2017) and yokozuna Harumafuji (who won September’s Aki Basho) lost both of his first two matches, each to a Maegashira-ranked rikishi.

If that’s not bad enough, Harumafuji is kyujo as of today, and may be forced to retire due to an incident on the autumn jungyo [exhibition tour]. Apparently, on October 28th, the yokozuna got into a fight with M8 Takanoiwa, hitting him over the head with a beer bottle and causing serious injury. Takanoiwa is kyujo this tournament . . . now we know why. 

Although the incident was a complete secret until today, Harumafuji made a public statement apologizing for his behavior, the injury, and for “causing trouble.” Apparently, he and his oyakata [stable master] went to Takanohana Beya to officially apologize, but before they could, Takanohana Oyakata left the heya . . . a none-too-subtle hint that he was in no mood to accept the apology, and that he wants to press the Kyokai [Sumo Association] to enforce some stricter penalty . . . most likely forcing Harumafuji to retire.

The politics behind this are both obvious and subtle. Takanohana was a great yokozuna in his day, winning twenty-two yusho [tournament championships] between 1992–2001, making him one of only nineteen rikishi ever to earn the unofficial rank of “dai-yokozuna,” generally considered someone who has won ten or more yusho. Harumafuji’s win in September was his ninth, and by forcing him to retire, Takanohana would denying him the opportunity to ever join the ranks of dai-yokozuna (something he probably would achieve over the course of 2018, and almost certainly would have already achieved if he hadn’t been fighting during the era of Hakuho).

For certain, Harumafuji is now out of the Kyushu Basho. Whether or not he’ll ever compete again is a question that will be deliberated behind the closed doors of Kyokai meetings, but most likely not until after the end of the tournament.

And that’s just the off-the-dohyo drama. There’s plenty of action in the ring, too.

Let’s begin with sekiwake Terunofuji, who must win ten matches this tournament if he wants to be reinstated to the rank of ozeki (which he lost after being kyujo in September while also being kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion]). He is clearly still quite injured, having lost his first two matches and looking fairly hapless in the process. His chances are already slim, but every loss he takes in Week 1, when he faces lower-ranked opponents, makes them even slimmer. At this point, the best thing Terunofuji can do is to take a long break—I’d like to see him take off the entire year of 2018—to let his knees FULLY heal. He must accept that he’ll drop down the banzuke [ranking sheet] all the way through Makuuchi, and probably through Juryo, down into the lower divisions, and hope that his knees CAN heal well enough for him to make a comeback starting in 2019.

Speaking of injuries, M11 Aoiyama, who was just coming back from a bad twist of his left knee, took a bad fall in his Day 2 loss to M12 Okinoumi and appears to have seriously injured his right leg (though it was unclear whether it was his knee or his ankle that caused the trouble). In any case, he had to be wheeled out of the stadium following the loss, and is now kyujo again.

On a more positive note, ozeki Takayasu is kadoban this tournament (no, that’s not the good part), but so far he’s looked healthy and strong. He’s won his first two matches, and so only needs six more in order to secure his kachi-koshi [majority of wins] and his ozeki rank. I’m sure, though, that he’s got his sights set higher than that. Takayasu has made no secret about the fact that he wants to be a yokozuna one day, like his stablemate Kisenosato, and in order to achieve that he’s got to start winning tournaments. And so far he’s got as good a chance as anyone at contending for the yusho here in Kyushu.

A bit of news I haven’t yet reported is that sekiwake Yoshikaze began the Kyushu Basho with 499 career wins, needing just one more to reach an auspicious plateau. However, since he lost both of his opening matches, we still can get to celebrate with him (presuming that he’ll notch up a victory before too long).

Now let’s have a look at some of the top matches from today’s action.

Sekiwake Mitakeumi (1–1) vs. komusubi Kotoshogiku (0–2)—This should be a terrific match, even though neither of the rikishi is looking particularly sharp so far this basho. Mitakeumi injured the big toe on his left foot during warm-ups on Day 1, and it’s clearly throwing off his game. Still, he’s up on the dohyo giving it his all. On the other hand, Kotoshogiku began the tournament against two of the strongest rikisihi on the banzuke—Hakuho and Goeido—so his record isn’t shocking, but on the other hand he didn’t particularly challenge either one. We’ll see if one of these two can really bring their sumo into focus—perhaps BOTH of them can! (8:15)
Sekiwake Terunofuji (0–2) vs. sekiwake Yoshikaze (0–2)—Terunofuji is clearly hurt, and the likelihood of his getting the ten wins he needs to regain his ozeki rank seems to be getting fading away. He needs to turn that around today while there’s still a chance. Meanwhile Yoshikaze is only needs to win one more to get to five hundred career Makuuchi Division wins. He lost two close bouts the past couple of days, and he also needs to turn his fortunes around if he wants to stay a the rank of sekiwake (because at this rank Week 2 usually brings the most challenging opponents). (9:00)
Komusubi Onosho (1–1) vs. ozeki Takayasu (2–0)—Onosho beat Harumafuji on Day 1 and was in a strong position against Kisenosato yesterday when his foot slipped on the clay. Clearly he’ll want to prove his strength by coming back strong against an ozeki opponent today, and show the world that he’s a serious contender. Meanwhile, Takayasu has won his first two bouts, but must know that he wasn’t particularly sharp in them. He can do a lot to solidify his reputation as a strong ozeki by handing this young upstart a decisive defeat. (9:25)
Ozeki Goeido (2–0) vs. M2 Tochiozan (0–2)—Goeido is looking strong again this tournament. The biggest problem may be that he’s a little too anxious and aggressive. He very nearly lost on Day 1 by over-extending his winning thrust. If he can take the strength he’s showing and temper it with a bit of measured patience, he could yet become the strong ozeki that he’s failed to be the past few years. (10:40)
M1 Takakeisho (1–1) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (2–0)—Hakuho is . . . well . . . he’s Hakuho. Coming back from missing a whole tournament due to injury and he just looks as strong, calm, and in control as has been for years. It’s still the early days of this basho, but unless something goes very wrong, Hakuho has already served notice that he’s the man to beat. (11:35)
Yokozuna Kisenosato (1–1) vs. M2 Chiyotairyu (1–1)—Kisenosato was a little unlucky on Day 1, losing a match that he was in control of . . . and a little lucky on Day 2, when Onosho slipped on the clay before the match could really get going. We haven’t yet really seen what kind of condition Kisenosato is in for this tournament. Hopefully, he can show us that in his match today against Chiyotairyu (12:55)

SUMO: 2017 Kyushu Basho (Day 2)

It’s Day 2 of the Kyushu basho and the drama has already begun. Two of the three competing yokozuna lost their opening matches, as did two of the three sekiwake.

Harumafuji lost for the second straight time in a row to 21-year-old komusubi Onosho, who is only participating in his fourth tournament at the Makuuchi Division level. Worse for Harumafuji, he walked off the dohyo flexing his left arm the way he does when it’s bothering him. I fear that he may not make it all the way to the end of the tournament, let alone get a second yusho [tournament championship] in a row.

Likewise, Kisenosato looked out of sorts in his loss to M1 Tamawashi. It may be that the yokozuna isn’t as completely healed as he’d hoped. Despite Kisenosato being in control for the first few moments of the match, Tamawashi was able to push him off balance and eventually force him out of the ring. 

As I said in my comments yesterday, this could be a very interesting and unpredictable tournament . . . and not just at the top of the banzuke [ranking sheet]. There are a lot of interesting things going on among the rank-and-file Maegashira rikishi.

Maybe the most noticeable thing about the top of the Maegashira ranks (M1–M5) is the lack of big-time recognizable names. After September’s Aki Basho, the familiar faces either rolled up to sanyaku (like Onosho) or dropped precipitously. M1 Tamawashi and M2 Tochiozan were both komusubi in September, but both showed a decided lack of focus. With the sanyaku ranks stacked with highly determined rikishi, I don’t see any reason why this basho should go any better for either of them. M3 Shohozan and M4 Ichinojo put in pretty good performances in September, but this is the area of the banzuke where their skills are usually shown to be lacking. They are very strong mid-level Maegashira, but just don’t have what it takes to get the job done when they have half their schedules filled with sanyaku opponents. 

The mid-level Maegashira (M6–M10) are in the opposite situation—a bunch of recognizable names at rankings where they usually can thrive. At M6 Tochinoshin can make another run at the top of the banzuke IF his knee stays strong (a big if at this point in his career). Meanwhile M7 Daishomaru, M9 Endo, M10 Kaisei, and M10 Ikioi all seem poised to have good tournament, though chances are that they can’t all do so simultaneously. A couple of these guys are going to have to rise above the others or they’re all going to end up with mediocre final records. A note for those tracking the banzuke, M8 Takanoiwa has withdrawn from the tournament due to injury (though I have no details as to why)

As for the lower Maegashira (M11–M16), there are a lot of familiar names, including a few who are returning from time in Juryo. Chief among these are M13 Aminishiki (who at 39 is the oldest rikishi ever to be promoted up out of Juryo) and M14 Kotoyuki (who seems to have gotten back the fire that launched him up the banzuke in 2016). Bulgarian rikishi Aoiyama is at M11, hoping to repeat his dominant July performance (he missed most of September’s tournament due to injury). Meanwhile, rikishi like M12 Okinoumi and M15 Nishikigi are hoping to shake the cobwebs of their previous performance out of their heads and get back to winning ways before the fall out of the top division entirely. Speaking of falling into Juryo, that is certainly what will happen to fan-favorite Ura, as he has already withdrawn from the tournament due to lingering injury . . . and at M16 there is nowhere else for him to go but down a division.

Now that we’re fully caught up on the banzuke, let’s look at the best match-ups from today’s bouts.

M11 Aoiyama (1–0) vs. M12 Okinoumi (0–1)—Two big rikishi who have struggled some of late. Aoiyama was super-sharp in July (staying in the yusho race until the final days of the tournament), but had injury problems in September. Okinoumi has just seemed lackluster for most of this year, like he’s going through the motions but doesn’t really have the drive to go out and MAKE wins for himself. (Oddly, this was the knock I put on Kisenosato for several years—it was only in 2016 that he seemed to find the drive to push himself, and when he did he wound up getting his promotion to yokozuna.) (3:09)
M9 Endo (1–0) vs. M10 Kaisei (1–0)—Two very popular rikishi, both of whom are now wearing very colorful mawashi [belt/loin cloth]. They’ve both spent some time in Juryo lately this year, and so clearly are motivated to prove that they deserve their spots in the upper division. In particular, Kaisei has the physical attributes that could make him a solid mainstay in the sanyaku ranks, if only he can manage to keep himself focused for the whole of a tournament. (5:15)
Sekiwake Terunofuji (0–1) vs. M3 Shohozan (1–0)—Terunofuji looked pretty unstable yesterday. He’s needs at least ten wins in order to regain his ozeki rank, but in order to achieve that he MUST win most of his Week 1 matches. Starting off with a loss is a bad sign. Shohozan has beaten Terunofuji the only two times they’ve fought previously, so he’ll be confident.  (10:03)
Yokozuna Harumafuji (0–1) vs. M1 Takakeisho (0–1)—Harumafuji’s loss yesterday could be chalked up to any number of things, most benign being a mere bit of slippage (the dohyo seems to be very sandy and a lot of rikishi had trouble with their footing on Day 1). More worrisome might be that up-and-comer Onosho really has his number, and this is a rivalry that Harumafuji is destined to be on the wrong end of. Most problematic would be if Harumafuji’s condition just isn’t as good as he’d like us to believe. He was giving some signs of that last possiblity in his posture and gestures after yesterday’s loss. Hopefully, though, he’ll bounce back today against Takakeisho. (12:47)
M1 Tamawashi (1–0) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (1–0)—Hakuho looked strong in his Day 1 win, easily beating Kotoshogiku for the fifty-third time out of fifty-eight matches (which in itself may be some kind of record). Alone among the upper-ranked rikishi, Hakuho seems healthy, in rhythm, and ready for this tournament. (Ozeki Goeido seems healthy, but he very nearly gave away his Day 1 match by over-extending himself.) (15:55)